tv Face the Nation CBS January 16, 2011 8:30am-9:00am PST
>> schieffer: today on "face the nation," america in the aftermath of tucson. >> i want our democracy to be as good as christina imagined it. >> schieffer: the president would call the hope of nine- year-old christina greene, the tucson gunman's youngest victim as he called for a new civility in our national debate. but can it happen or will this awful event drive us further apart? we'll ask rudy giuliani, the man who came to be called "america's mayor" in the wake of 9/11. pennsylvania's outgoing governor ed rendell, and arizona republican congressman jeff flake. then, we'll bring in two of wounded congresswoman gabrielle giffords' close friends-- new york senator gillibrand and florida congresswoman debbie wasserman shultz. on this week that marks the 50th anniversary of john kennedy's
inaugural, i'll have some thoughts on the chain of violence from the kennedy assassination to the events of last week. but first, has tucson changed the debate on "face the nation"? captioning sponsored by cbs "face the nation" with cbs news chief washington correspondent bob schieffer. and now from washington, bob schieffer. >> schieffer: and good morning again. we're going to begin this morning with the wounded congresswoman, gabrielle giffords-- two of her closest friends in the congress, new york senator kristin gillibrand is with me here in the studio, and congresswoman debbie wasserman shultz is in her home state of florida. senator, first, you talked to the family last night. how is the congresswoman doing? >> she's doing great. when i was there visiting with her, i was telling her how proud i am of her because she is right
now inspiring the nation. she epitomizes everything that president obama said in his speech about a way of moving forward, of providing leadership that brings people together, not pushing them apart and focuses on solutions. that's who gabby is. right now, through this struggle, which she will overcome, she is showing raw courage, raw strength something that we can all get behind. she really is our glimmer of hope in a very dark time. >> schieffer: it's my understanding they have taken her off the ventilator, but she of course is still in critical condition. she has not spoken. >> no, but she can move both sides of her body. she can breathe. she's showing people that she can communicate well by, you know, holding our hands and moving her arms and her legs and looking at us. she's making great progress. >> reporter: congresswoman wasserman shultz, you actually went out to the hospital yesterday. what's the situation out there? >> well, you know, it was wonderful, after kirsten and i were able to be with her wednesday when she first opened her eyes to see her yesterday
without the breathing tube and without a lot of the apparatus that had been, you know, on her a few days before that. she continues to make, you know, very good progress, and neurologically, she's, you know, in good shape. a little bit better shape every day. kirsten is absolutely right. this is a woman who has the grit and the will and determination, more than anyone that we know. it's just... we were just really overjoyed to be able to be there for our friend and help to urge her on to come back to us, to her family, to her constituents in the 8th district of arizona. and i was able to see the staff, too. >> schieffer: thank you, congresswoman. i'm going to ask both of you to stand by here. i want to talk about the outlook in congress, which starts debate this week on repealing health care legislation. but i want to broaden the
discussion, if i can now, at this point, beyond washington and the belt way. i want to bring in the man who, many people in the hours after 9/11, because of the way he did his job as mayor of new york, he became known as "america's mayor." i want to talk to him first and also to outgoing pennsylvania governor ed rendell. we want to get his take on where he thinks the country is right now after this awful event. but first to you, mr. mayor. i just kind of feel comfortable calling you that. you know, the country did seem to come together after 9/11. but this time, when this awful thing happened, in the hours... first hours after it, it seemed like it might drive us further apart. why do you think that was? >> you know, it is a very interesting difference. in the first moments after this, there was a rush to judgment on both sides. left wingers trying to blame it
on right wing, tea party, sarah palin. right wingers trying to fight back and defend themselves against what was really an outrageous charge. but the reality is that that settled pretty quickly when we learned the history. and i thought the president's speech put it on a different tone. i think we have a chance, even though a couple of days later, i think we have a chance to do the same thing that we did after september 11. you know, it moved me greatly that christina greene was born on september 11. i feel a personal connection to her-- her granddad was a manager of the mets and the yankees, as well. and this young lady was very taken by the fact that she was born on september 11. so maybe now, we can learn things from it. i think there's a real opportunity to try to have more civil discourse. although the lack of civil discourse wasn't the cause of this, as some people thought. the benefits we can get from civil discourse will allow us to
solve a problem like this, which i believe, if we want to be perfectly logical about it, the problem that helped to cause this is our inability to deal with mental illness and our inability to deal with it as a society. we always have these problems. we have a set of rights in this country, very important. then we have a set of problems. how you balance them. addressing those problems against the rights we have. we have to make that adjustment, as ed rendell knows. he's a big part of it. we had to make that adjustment to make cities safer. maybe we have to make that adjustment now to deal with mental illness. this man was crying out for someone who needed to be treated. he was being told to be treated. people were saying he was bizarre. people were saying he was frightening. a teacher wouldn't be with him without a guard being there. gosh, you would think, at some point along the way, he'd have been evaluated. it isn't an isolated incident. we could go back and look at lots of incidents like this where people weren't being treated.
senator gillibrand's predecessor, senator moynihan is the one who explained this to me when i was mayor. he used to say in the '60s they let everyone out of the "insane asylums," he called them. he said that was a good thing because a lot of them didn't belong there, but there was supposed to be a follow up which was treatment in the community-- monitoring, medicine. that follow up has never taken place. well, maybe that follow up is needed now. that would probably be the most relevant response to this tragedy that almost took the life of a really fine congresswoman, who can have a great future, and did take some lives including a very young one. >> schieffer: when you were the mayor, you were pretty strong on control, for example, of handguns. do you think it is time to reexamine the gun laws? we're not talking about taking people's guns away from them. people who are qualified to have them. but is there a need to find some way to keep guns out of the
hands of people like mr. loughner? >> well, i mean, it would seem to me that you'd address this with the most relevant problem first. the most relevant problem was the lack of an ability to deal with what was apparently paranoid schizophrenia that should have been treated. then, i would reestablish a situation of civility, which we seem to be doing, so we can talk to each other about gun laws without yelling at each other. we do those first two things i think we could take a look at gun laws and see what can be done that doesn't affect the constitutional rights that people have to have guns, the right they have to protect themselves. there are people that would argue that if more people had guns, this may not have happened, because somebody might have been able to take action immediately and stop him before he inflicted either damage or as much damage as he did. we've got a very strong debate on guns. we're going to need a level of civility to discuss it that
leads to rationality. i think we should also discuss immigration. if we could get our selves to the point of not demonizing each other over it. but i think the critical thing is let's see if we can act rationally and on point. most important thing that would have prevented this is if this loughner had been identified as what he clearly was. there's something wrong in a society where we have so many of these situations. we had the major nidal a year- and-a-half ago. major nidal, for three years, in the army was indicating a desire to participate in jihad. and we promoted him. i mean, we're making a big mistake here not changing our procedures with regard to mental illness, and then some form of involuntary appraisal of people who display situations where teachers have to have guards there to protect themselves. >> schieffer: mr. mayor, what was your reaction to the way that sarah palin reacted to all
of this? >> my reaction... what sarah palin did was somebody who was probably upset and maybe even shaken by the fact that she was, you know, not accused of murder, but accused of playing a material role in this incident in a very, very direct way. when in fact the facts and the circumstances show that this had nothing to do with the left or the right. it had nothing to do with any map that sarah palin had or... this was clearly... and i've dealt with enough murder cases and insanity defenses enough to know-- that this is one of those that comes out of the strange, weird, bizarre background of this young man. yeah, she used the wrong word in responding to it, but i can see why she would feel very upset. >> schieffer: our time is limited. let me just ask you quickly. are you rethinking... are you thinking about maybe running for
president again? >> not this morning. i have thought about it in recent weeks, but i haven't thought about it. my heart goes out to the congresswoman and her family and all of the people that lost loved ones and the people of arizona, and particularly, the greene family. what a wonderful young girl. what an irony she was born on a terrible day for our country and she died on a terrible day for our country. >> schieffer: thank you so much, mr. mayor, for joining us this morning. >> thank you, bob. >> schieffer: i want to go to governor rendell in philadelphia. you heard rudy giuliani. he said we need to establish a more civil discourse, and then perhaps we can talk about these hot button topics like guns. >> well, i think that's right. i think the congress should rededicate itself to not only civil discourse, but to working together and getting things done. there are areas where we can really meet the country's challenges if we put aside electioneering and partisanship, like deficit reduction, like
education, no child left behind, like energy. we need an american energy initiative. those are the things we can get going. we ought to have a logical discussion about the two points that the mayor raised. one, how to get an early detection system where we can get people help, but also get them classified as having mental problems so that they are no longer eligible, under the brady bill, to buy firearms. had this man been classified, had he been committed civilly at any time prior to his purchasing the gun from wal-mart, he would have in fact been denied access to that firearm. but then, bob, i also think we need a rational discussion on guns, where we put aside the pressure from interest groups. we take a look and say, does any citizen protecting themselves or their home or using a handgun to hunt, do they need a clip that has 33 bullets in it? and the answer is, of course not. the congress, i think the nation's spirits would be lifted
if the congress acted quickly with the president and reinstated the assault weapons ban, which also had the ban on these large magazines, these clips that carried 30-plus bullets. >> schieffer: do you agree with mr. giuliani in that the president's speech may have actually changed the debate and the discourse? >> we'll see. i hope so. i thought the president sounded all the right themes. i think it was a great speech. i think he put a lot of care into it and didn't make it political. but we'll see. really, the first test is on health care. can the debate on health care, where the republicans have promised to repeal the bill, even though they know that that's a false promise to the people, because it's not going to pass the senate, the president would veto it. can the republicans have discourse on that, allow amendments, allow discussion? and maybe come up with three or four changes rather than a repeal, which never is going to happen, and bring those three or
four changes to the president and say, "mr. president, will you work with us and try to modify this?" that, to me, is the important thing. not that everybody sits together during the state of the union. that would be a great symbol for the country, but that's not long-lasting. we need to spend this year addressing the nation's problems, whether it's health care, whether it's education, whether it's energy, whether it's deficit reduction, whether it's gun control. we need to discuss those problems in a rational atmosphere, where we don't demonize each other and where we listen. where we listen! >> schieffer: governor, this is sort of your valedictory as governor on sunday television. you leave office on tuesday. how has the country changed since you came to office and are you... how do you feel about the state of the nation right now? >> well, i think, first of all, in my eight years, i've seen the level of partisanship and ideological posturing just increase and increase and increase. and i think it's tearing the fabric of our government apart. if these lives were lost for a reason, the reason is if we can
take something good out of it, this is a wake-up call to all of us, that we can't go on the way we're doing. we just simply can't do that. if that happens, this tragic day will have done some real good. secondly, i have found that the recession has really hardened people's attitudes. what's important going forward, if i were to give a message to the american people, you've got to be able to discern the difference between very important government spending-- investment in our physical infrastructure, our intellectual structure-- and wasteful government spending. the latter should be eliminated as quickly as possible. that money should be saved to reduce the deficit. but we can't stop investing in our growth. no business that's successful does that. neither should we. >> schieffer: governor, thank you so much for being with us on this sunday. we're going to be back in a minute and talk to her close associates and friends in the congress, the friends and associates of gabrielle giffords. in a minute.
>> schieffer: we're back now with congresswoman debbie wasserman shultz, senator kirsten gillibrand, and republican congressman jeff flake joins us from phoenix this morning. congressman flake, let me start with you. congress comes back. the debate on repealing health care overhaul is going to begin this week. do you plan to change anything that you... will your tone change, and do you think the congress's tone is going to change when this debate unfolds? >> i think it will. i think you'll see a more civil debate than you would have had otherwise. i'm not sure the substance of the debate will change that much. i think republicans are committed to repealing the law in the house, obviously. but i do think that the tone will change. that's a good thing. i think it was a good decision to put it off for a week. >> schieffer: you know, this is a small thing, but something i noticed in the accounts of what
the new speaker boehner said yesterday. he talked about legislation. he called it... we're going to stop this "job destroying legislation" instead of calling it "job killing legislation." do you think that is going to... can that possibly continue on here, or am i just being a pollyanna about this? >> well, i think that we republicans and i think democrats alike will realize that, if we tone down the rhetoric, sometimes our debate is more effective from our own side. if you take a cue from the movie industry, you look at the top grossing movies. they're almost always pg or pg-13. it's better to have a more civil tone and a civil debate. i think it behooves all of us to do so. >> schieffer: senator gillibrand, you're one of those who are... have gotten behind this idea that, when the president makes his state of the union address, that instead of all the republicans sitting on
one side of the chamber and all the democrats on the other, that people just sit together. that's obviously a very cosmetic thing. but number one, tell me how is that going? and number two, do you think it really is a significant thing or could be? >> well, i think it's a symbol. a symbol is a very good place to start. if we can actually come into that chamber, and instead of me going to the left, i go to the right, and the republicans do the opposite. you'll create an image of the congress deciding that we are going to work as a body, not as two separate sides. that's a very good place to start. i think the conversation you're having about health care is very meaningful. because one thing the governor brought up that i thought was very significant is that if we can move that conversation to what about the bill do you want to change, that is a legitimate debate that we should frankly have. the bill is not perfect. it never has been. for example, after the bill was written, a lot of our small businesses came to me and said "there's a lot of paperwork i now have to fill out. too much paperwork.
every time i send x number dollars, i have to fill out a form." we can change that. that's something we can absolutely agree on. talking about repealing the whole piece of legislation, let's break it apart. are the tax cuts for small businesses not something we can all agree on? i think it is. are making medicines less expensive for seniors by closing the donut hole-- that's something we all agree on. making sure we have more choices and more competition-- that's an american value. that's something we agree on. making sure everyone covers preventive care, we can probably keep that. so, having a debate about substance in recognition that the divisiveness of national politics has become so undermining of our ability to be successful is very important. i think the president's call to action is extremely meaningful for that reason, because all he's saying is that our democracy has to live up to the expectation of our children, that we have to solve the problems of the day. a very significant issue that we have to get to is the economy. we have to focus on how we're creating jobs. >> schieffer: all right. let me go to congresswoman wasserman shultz quickly.
you know, i say this not so much to be critical, but you are very outspoken. you come to a point when you are in a debate, congresswoman. do you plan to dial back your rhetoric when the congress convenes this time? >> well, i don't plan to debate my values and the principles of my constituents any less vigorously. but i think it starts with us. i think we have to be more careful about the words we choose, including things like the title of the repeal of the health care reform. i'm glad that speaker boehner chose to verbalize a different title for that bill, but they so far have refused to actually change the title of "job killing health care repeal." so i think we need to be leaders by example, and when we do that, then hopefully we're going to be able to push the shock jocks and others outside our process, to
take a page from our book and if we have a more productive civil discourse, then we can really live up to president obama's words and christina taylor greene's dreams of her expectations for our democracy. we've got to lead by example. >> schieffer: let me go to congressman flake quickly because we're running out of time. congressman, what will be the hardest part of all this? >> well, i think keeping this tone that seems to be now set into the future. it's easy to slip back into old ways, and like i said, i think we can have the debates we need to with a more civil tone. frankly, i think we'll find that that's more effective from both sides. but keeping that into the future is going to be a tough thing. >> schieffer: i want to thank all of you for being with us this morning. i'll be back with some final thoughts of my own in a minute.
>> schieffer: finally today when i read that thursday marks the 50th anniversary of john kennedy's inaugural, i could not help but remember how kennedy's message of hope and change had inspired so many that day, and how those hopes were dashed in ... and the confidence of the nation was shaken when he died such a few short years later. i was there. i remember. and i could not help but think of those days and the chain of violent events that followed as i reflected on the events of the last week. i thought about how weapons, like the cheap mail order rifle that lee harvey oswald bought to kill kennedy, and weapons even more powerful, are still available over the counter to people like jared loughner. and it made me again wonder-- is there not some way that we can change that? poll after poll and election after election has shown americans want the right to own a gun. and i believe in that right. but if we can find a way to bar
minors from buying alcohol, if we can keep those with bad eyesight from driving, if the army could find a way to keep loughner from joining, can we not find a way to keep the mentally deranged from buying weapons? if we do not, violence will become an ever larger part of our politics and our national life, because it cannot be otherwise. simply because technology is making the weapons even deadlier, and the irrational will continue to do irrational things. we can never stop that completely. what we can do, at the least, is to make it harder for them. we also have a right to safety. back in a minute.
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